President Cleere addresses 440 new graduates at Piedmont Commencement


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Retiring Piedmont College President Ray Cleere admonished graduates at the college on Saturday to be “unreasonable.”

“It is the unreasonable man or woman who persists in trying to shape the world to fit themselves,” Cleere said. “And it is just such unreasonable, stubborn behavior that often forces change. To be unreasonable, one most have the courage to be heard—the courage to take a position. Avoid at all cost the role of the bystander. When silence is expedient, when appeasement is easy, it is time to be unreasonable.”

Cleere said that was the advice given to him by a mentor during his 56-year career in higher education, including the past 16 years as president at Piedmont. Cleere also advised the graduates to “make no small plans. It is a life of small plans and small ideas that stir no one, least of all yourself.”

Piedmont Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas A. “Gus” Arrendale III, who introduced Dr. Cleere, pointed out that as president, Dr. Cleere had made no small plans. Arrendale read a list of accomplishments at Piedmont during the past 16 years, including the construction of new buildings for math and science, mass communications and theater, art, and athletics, as well as renovation of all existing facilities and the opening of a campus in Athens. During this same time, the college grew from 850 students to 2,700 and added graduate programs in education and business. “And that is just tenth of the things he has done,” Arrendale said.

“Ray Cleere is a friend of the students, he is a friend of the faculty, and he is the best friend Piedmont College ever had. I am proud to say that he is my friend, too,” Arrendale said.

Luther ElrodBecause of the recent growth in enrollment, the college held two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, one at 10 a.m. for 177 undergraduate students and one at 2 p.m. for 263 graduate students.

On May 5, the undergraduates gathered in the college Chapel for a Baccalaureate service featuring guest speaker Dr. Luther Elrod, who is retiring after 24 years as a professor of chemistry at Piedmont.